Troye Sivan has announced the details of his majorly anticipated debut album. Titled Blue Neighbourhood, the album will be released 4th December globally – much to the thrill of the young musician’s fans. We interviewed Sivan for HERO 13 as he prepared to record tracks for the album.
Interview and shoot taken from HERO 13: True Blue, out now.
Nineteen-year-old Troye Sivan is a social conqueror. The very definition of a YouTube sensation, the vlogger, singer and actor has over 3.6 million followers and his channel is the second most-subscribed-to in Australia.
Last summer Sivan released his first EP, TRXYE; his song Happy Little Pill breaking into Top Ten charts around the world. We spoke as Sivan was rehearsing to play live for the first time about honing his new sound and representing a new generation kickstarting careers straight out of YouTube.
Lewis Firth So what have you been up to recently? I know we had to reschedule as you had some last-minute rehearsals…
Troye Sivan: I got to LA about two weeks ago. I haven’t played live in a really long time. Not my own music, anyway. I used to sing a lot to shitty backing tracks on YouTube. I’ve been rehearsing with the band and just getting familiar with being on stage and getting other technical bits measured up and tested. I’m going through this weird growth period of getting ready to perform on stage without peeing myself.
LF: So have you not performed live before?
TS: No, I have. I used to do it all the time when I was younger. But I just haven’t done it in a long time.
LF: But a lot more intense this time…
TS: Yeah, definitely. And I’ve never performed songs that I’ve written, either. I used to sing at corporate events when I was younger, you know, like background music while people ate their dinner and things.
LF Modest beginnings then!
LF: So all of these rehearsals, I presume it’s for the new music that you’ve got planned to release this year?
TS: Yeah. I’ll be in the studio in the morning and then rehearse in the afternoon. It’s all new music, actually. One of the songs I’m currently rehearsing I wrote, like, a week and a half ago. It’s pretty exciting.
LF: So this is all still pretty fresh then?
TS: Yeah, some of the content has been in the pipeline for a while. I’m going to be singing some of the songs from TRXYE, but most of all of the stuff will be new.
LF: When you said rehearsing, I just presumed you had recorded it a while back, and just now you were beginning to rehearse for live events.
TS: That’s probably how it should be but I’m just a little bit behind, I think.
LF: It’s not a bad thing. It means it’s fresh in the mind when you come to rehearse it, right?
TS: It’s changing how I see my own music. There are some songs that I wrote for TRXYE that I felt, at that time, I couldn’t get to the level I wanted them to be at. Now I’ve had some more time I’ve fixed them up. The process has given me fresh perspective on it all. I’m looking forward to seeing how the crowd react.
LF: The crowd already know you really well, and that’s mainly because of your YouTube presence. Social media has played a large part in your rise as a musician, so how did it all begin?
TS: I’ve sung my entire life. When I was eight I played at those kind of corporate events I mentioned, like gala nights, stuff like that. I was sick at home one day and found this website called YouTube and decided to post a video. It just made complete sense that people could react and give feedback immediately. It’s been like that since day one and I’m used to that. From there, it just meant giving up a bit of my life and making a video every now and again. I made a video like every six months for a few years. Then my voice started to break and I lost all of my confidence. Luckily, at that time, an acting manager found me and said that he couldn’t promise me any work in regards to my music but he could submit me for acting. I’d never tried it, but I just said sure. That’s how I fell in love with acting.
LF: What parts came of that?
TS: The first audition I had was for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I ended up getting the part as Young Wolverine.
LF: Shit, starting at the deep end then.
TS [laughs] Yeah! Then I did the Spud films – three of those. It was an awesome distraction from my voice not sounding like it used to. It gave me time to get used to it. I just relearnt everything that I knew previously. It grew to be like a hobby again. Even though I wasn’t performing publicly or anything, I just took it back to its roots and realised that I could still write and make my own music. I found Amy Winehouse and that changed my life as I realised that she wrote all of her songs herself and that was like therapy for her. It inspired me to make more music, which I did at home. Then I made a song based off John Green’s book called The Fault in Our Stars, and that ended up being the track that my record label found and it’s what got me signed. Along the way, I began envisioning the songs in my head, and that was a big moment for me.
LF: We’re a transitional generation in that we’ve lived through the absence and presence of social media. It’s democratised the creative industries. Do you find that it’s a bit overwhelming, how everything has suddenly changed?
TS: I was going to say the exact same thing you just said: it’s turned music into a democracy. It’s put the people in charge of what they like and what they don’t like. It’s such an exciting thing. I got Twitter when I was like fourteen or fifteen, so I can’t really remember what it was like not to have Twitter. I think it’s absolutely insane. To be an artist who has explored that and be founded that way is something I’m quite proud of. I think there’s a stigma attached to YouTube and YouTubers, saying there’s a lack of quality. It’s a great way for artists to be found as they connect with people.
LF: Do you ever use YouTube as a way to connect with your fans to gain feedback?
TS: It depends. I’m used to getting feedback on a lot of stuff as I post so much online. That feedback is absolutely invaluable. But I think there are times when I’m a bit cagey about some stuff, as I don’t want it to disturb my vision. I enjoy the process of reclusively making the music and then releasing it once I think, in my eyes, it’s in its perfect form. Imogen Heap, for her album Eclipse, made video blogs of her making the music. She’d be like, “Morning guys, today I’m making this song and I’ve changed the sound slightly,” and then she’d upload it that night and some people would ask for her to keep it or change it back. All of her fans were in on the entire process.
LF: Wow, that is brave.
TS: I am not brave enough to do that, but I think that’s really cool to keep that conversation open. I don’t think I’m at the point where I could do something like that yet; I would get too distracted.
LF: I think it is difficult for someone like yourself to not to get distracted by the commenting as you have millions of followers. I think in any creative industry, to uphold that self-exploratory system of creativity is nearly impossible in this age as you’re being constantly bombarded by opinions and content.
TS: Yeah, but on the flipside of that, you can see art from all over the world that you wouldn’t previously have access to. Like anything, I think there are positive and negatives. I think we’re all so lucky to be alive right now living through this digital age and watching it unfold.
LF: But do you think the digital age has its negatives? A lot of people, mainly of an older generation, argue that it makes kids less sociable and more solitary. I mean, if someone’s an introvert then they’ll be introverted without a phone or not, right?
TS: I’ll try not to use my phone at dinner and stuff like that, but there are good and bad aspects to all things. That introverted kid, who isn’t talking to people at a party, may be chatting to a new mate on the other side of the world via Twitter. Our grandparents and parents could never think of doing that in their time. It’s super social, it’s ultra-social, we’re talking to each other all the time. Having a balance between the real world and social media is very important. I think it’ll be a struggle for a lot of people but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to set certain boundaries. I mean look at the blue-and-black, white-and- gold dress discussion on social media that happened recently. It was an inside joke that the entire world shared with each other. For a day, everybody was talking about this dress. That global connection and global sense of community was never there before social media.
LF: In terms of this global community you’re talking about, does that ever make you anxious before posting any content?
TS: Not really. I felt like I was just posting to no one. I was posting and then a couple of hundred people watched and some subscribed. But then I was posting to people that liked me. If they didn’t like it, then they wouldn’t subscribe, right? In general I feel very lucky that I have a positive community that are responding to me.
LF: You have a large community of followers, so is that gained through self-promotion?
TS: It was pretty gradual. It happened over the last seven years or so.
LF: Seven years is still quite a while.
TS: Yeah, it didn’t happen overnight or anything. I didn’t have a video that went viral or anything.
LF: I think the second batch of YouTubers get frustrated and give up a lot easier as they expect immediate fame; it just doesn’t work like that.
TS: If you start for the right reasons – those reasons being that you love what you make and you want to share it – then you’ll stick around. If you’re trying to be ‘YouTube Famous’, then it doesn’t work.
Troye Sivan’s debut album ‘Wild’ is out 4th December on … Subscribe to his YouTube channel here.